From time to time, we have the opportunity to glimpse something that could have been. Unreleased models, artwork and occassionally whole games themselves. Some of these games survive as mere mentions, ghosts on the page, such as Richard Halliwell's Lustria campaign or Blood for the Blood God supplement for Warhammer. Others have lain lanquished and forgotten, only to be rediscovered and enjoyed once more, as with the Bolt Thrower or Bust game I blogged about last year.
Chivalry was one of those lost games, only one that existed as a simple card game published in White Dwarf 130 in October 1990. There were always rumours and suspicions of more, especially when the enthusiast reads back through the original article, and I quote: "As some of you will know, we have been working on a new Warhammer game called Chivalry. It is quite a departure for us because, rather than being set in our own game universe of the Warhammer World, it takes place in the wholly historical setting of the fourteenth century, complete with knights, retainers, peasants and all the bloody trappings of medieval warfare."
Flicking through copies of White Dwarf from this era, it is obvious that something was certainly afoot. The Perry's produced a stunning range of medieval miniatures (labelled Bretonians, though clearly purely historical models) which saw considerable coverage in the magazine, with painting and iconography guides being published. Several works of art appeared baring a discernibly historical tone and a couple of beautiful Pery dioramas captured our imaginations with their gritty realism and bright, intricate heraldry. As David Frost used to say on 'Through the Key Hole' - "the clues are there!"
Over the years, former Games Workshop illuminati have also briefly mentioned Chivalry and shared what they could remember of the project.
Graeme Davis: I remember the Chivalry card game, though nothing really beyond the fact of its existence. I also remember that someone (the Perrys, I think) was working on a jousting game at some point between 1986 and 1989, but nothing beyond that. I don't think the game got any further than Bob Naismith's Tower of Screaming Death. I'm pretty sure that was Nigel Stillman's Bretonnia book, so Bretonnia wasn't really on the radar at the Design Studio at that time.
Quoted from comment made on RoC80s in November 2014
Rick Priestley: The Chivalry game was actually written up and developed by Nigel Stillman - based on an idea from Bryan Ansell - and utilising a range of models developed by the Perrys. So, yes Alan and Michael were involved - and did contribute to the game - but it was Nigel who worked up the game and Bryan had the 'vision' for it. In fact it was many games interlocked - with an overarching dynasty building game behind it - as I remember. There was a jousting system I think - and a man to man combat game that was based on cards - which I think I had a hand in. I remember playing it with the Perrys on the train down to Salute!
Just one of the very many things that were worked on and adandoned back in the day.
Taken from a Facebook conversation about the game 'Chivalry'. March 2015
The card game is well known, and I have blogged about its several times. I too, have pleasant memories of playing the game on long journeys (to and from school) and incorporating it into a WFRP campaign, complete with the PCs mimmicking the poses with plastic swords everytime a combat was played out. Very entertaining I can tell you! Over the years, I have met many an enthusiast who has fond memories of the game, with most of them recalling the more amusing 'distract' and 'boot' cards with oblivious relish. In 2013 some Oldhammer chaps utilised the card system in a Robin Hood inspired game and the Grognard's Grognard, Harry Howells, shared his thoughts about their implications.
Harry Howells: Everytime any two characters got into a fight we used the cards to resolve it. It played pretty well, although sometimes it could drag on a bit waiting for someone to get the upper hand. But a perfect bit of fun to add to a narrative game. We didn't worry about the weapons they were actually using. I always thought it looked good... it took me all these years to make any use of it, but I was really glad I gave it a go. It made the character fights between Robin and Guy more 'cinematic' as the advantage passed backwards and forwards and there were lots of opportunities for Errol Flynn style banter... "Not so fast, Guy!" and "Take that you saxon scum!"
This would have otherwise have been lost in a simple roll of a dice. I would certainly use it again.
Now, if you have got to this point in this article and you are thinking - what on earth are these Chivalry cards everyone keeps banging on about? Let me illuminate you with a couple of photographs. If you are looking for some scans of the cards themselves, then look here for some slightly blurry examples that are fairly straightforwards to print out, trim and get into the action with.
What we have covered so far is all that was published for the Chivalry game, and for some 'was' the Chivalry game, but for years I'd been fascinated by what the rest of the game would have been like. Last month, I was chatting to Bryan Ansell and Tony Ackland at the fifth Oldhammer Weekend when out of the corner of my eye I saw a battered, plastic boxfile wedged under several pieces of original GW artwork. It was unremarkable and unassuming really, just another piece of stationary save for the word 'CHIVALRY' scrawled in permanent pen across the front.
You can imagine my excitement was palpable when I asked them about it! I was even more jibilant when Bryan told me it was all that was left of the Chivalry project and that I was free to borrow it for further study! By now you have probably realised that the image I began this artcile with is a conceit. I crafted it on my computer but it is funny how that old 'Bretonian' painting that appeared in White Dwarf seems to make the perfect frontispiece for a rulebook - it makes me wonder if this image was indeed intended to grace the cover of Chivalry.
Obviously, the game was never published and Bryan's manuscript is very much a manuscript, complete with scrawled and slightly illegible annotations in blue pencil.
Here's the front page.
The historical background to the fourteenth sets the perfect stage for everything from small scale raids and skirmishes, to pitched battles as well as the proving grounds of the melee and joust. The overview to Chivalry explains Feudal obligation and uses as a context to hang a campaign on, including the role of the king attempting to prevent any single baron becoming too powerful. There are a huge number of different ideas here, far too many to cover in a single post like this, and some of the content is fragmentary at best. As Bryan explained; 'we never finished it'. But a great deal of material has survived, including detailed rules for tournaments and baronial conflict.
Though art is mentioned in the manuscript, much of it is obviously missing - with some of it no doubt making it into the pages of White Dwarf. On other pages are some wonderful illustrations of mounted knights, though whether any of these were intended for publication I do not yet know. However, it is clear that the campaign game was a card based affair and that 'Chivalry' can be best described as a series of games within a game, miniature wargaming being just a part, just as Rick Priestley recalled.
The campaign seems to have had a strong RPG flavour with a number of components indicating that the baronial characters would have experienced positive and negative events in life, including marriage - which I guess can go either way! Flicking through the pages that survive gives me the impression that character progression would have been a considerable part of the game and can well imagine the fun you would have leading a lowly knight from the tournaments to wielding considerable power along the way. With a multiplayer campaign, there would have been plenty of scope for skullduggery and deception too.
Some of the cards were printed to become test pieces, like these campaign maps that appear similar in style to Mighty Empires. If you look closely you will notice a few admendments made in tipex or some other white out material - a relic of the time before desktop publishing was a breeze. The cards are interchangable and can be used to make inumerable combinations for play.
A question now needs to be asked. What can be done with a 'used' unpublished game? I am lucky enough to be custodian of the document for a while, and will return it to the Ansell family archive in October when I take part in Night of the Living Lead. Between then and now I intend to scan the entire document in high definition for posterity but I am really tempted to do more...
Perhaps, even have a go at finishing the game and trying it out at next year's Oldhammer Weekend! Looking at what survives in the document, I can imagine a project like this would consist of three phases:
1) Tweaking the Chivalry card game rules to develop a narrative based tournement ruleset for battling knights, including some additional campaign rules - think Chaos Warbands aka Slaves to Darkness only for knights.
2) Complete the Chivalry card game rules for jousting, which are sadly mostly missing. This could eventually be incorporated into the Melee game in phase 1.
3) Edit and play the full campaign game in a series of events to simulate baronial conflict circa AD 1300, recruiting some suitably bloodthirsty Oldhammerers to slug it out to victory. This would include a Mighty Empires style map, cards and small and large scale battles.
Expect to see more about this discovery in the coming weeks, and some of my progress on Phase 1 of this project. I just need to get hold of a couple of suitable knights, real and miniature.